|Mr. Ben Arthur, CONIWAS Executive Secretary|
The Executive Secretary of the Coalition of NGOs in water and sanitation (CONIWAS), Mr. Benjamin Arthur, has stated that contrary to the pledge made by the Ghana government in South Africa as per the ETIKWINI declaration that it would commit 0.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards sanitation; this year’s budget only shows a commitment of 0.1%.
Further to this, he said despite government’s undertaking in Washington DC in 2010 to commit US$ 200 million every year towards water and sanitation activities starting from this year, this year’s budget did not reflect on this commitment as everyone expected.
Instead, he said when an analysis was done, it was realised that Ghana had met only 45% of the commitments it had pledged, which means that the country is still not going to meet its MDG target.
Opening a sensitisation workshop on the right to water and sanitation for journalists in Accra last week Thursday, CONIWAS’s Executive Secretary stated that the reason for the workshop was to remind each other about the issues of human rights when it comes to water and sanitation.
He said though Ghana’s leaders met and set targets to work towards in the name of MDGs; that most Ghanaians should have access to water by 2015, “when we look at this target in relation to where we are in this country as Ghana, we have four years to reach the MDG, yet the figures that we have is something that we should not be proud of.”
According to Mr. Ben Arthur, Ghana currently has a coverage of 59% for water, while for sanitation in West Africa and Africa, Ghana is last but one at the bottom. He said Ghana still has a national coverage of 13% for sanitation and that even if the figure is put at 20%, it will mean that out of a population of 24 million, only 4.8 million have access to adequate or improved sanitation.
Mr. Arthur thus asked where the remaining over 19 million people in Ghana currently defecate. “But within this domain, we also have a situation where our government have penned their signatures to international conventions and treaties for which they have committed themselves that water and sanitation are human rights issues, and therefore they will make it possible for, if not all of us, most of us to have access to these facilities,” he said.
The CONIWAS Executive Secretary stated – “It means that whichever way possible, our government should try and make these facilities accessible, especially to the poor and the marginalised.”
He lamented that as the figures indicate, most people in the country don’t have access to good water and adequate sanitation facilities, blaming the situation on the lack of investments in the water and sanitation sectors.
“People’s rights, in terms of water and sanitation are being trampled upon if you look at most of the international conventions,” Ben Arthur stressed.
The CONIWAS Executive Secretary emphasised that a critical look at sanitation in the country and its rate of growth indicate it is going to take Ghana another 40 years to attain the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of 54%, which also borders on rights issues.
He said the workshop, which was supported by WaterAid in Ghana and the Centre on Human Rights and Eviction (COHRE), was held to look at sanitation and water provision in the context of human rights and how to demand accountability from government. “It is for other people to also follow up for duty bearers to also do their part,” he added.
The workshop, he said, was also intended to look at some of the conventions and treaties that underline human rights issues in relation to water and sanitation. He expressed the view that by sharing and learning participants will help each other to understand the issues and urged the journalists to make demands after the workshop, based on what government has committed itself to do.
Convener of the day-long training, Mr. Ben Lartey, Secretary, CONIWAS, stated that the workshop was geared towards partnering with the media to demand government, the private sector and service providers act in accordance to their obligations with respect to the rights to water and sanitation.
He also said it was held to draw attention to the violation of rights, and to pressure government to amend its laws, policies and practices.
For his part, facilitator for the workshop, Patrick Apoya, Chief Executive, Sky Fox Limited and former Executive Secretary of CONIWAS, stated that the outcome of the workshop would be packaged for a National Stakeholders Workshop and also aid in the preparation of a National Action Plan.
He said although traditionally the rights to water and sanitation were accepted, they were still not imbedded in Ghana’s constitution and the ultimate is to have that done. According to Mr. Apoya, many African governments were resisting putting the rights to water and sanitation in their laws and constitutions, adding, “In Africa just about four countries – Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and one other central African country have those rights embedded in their laws.”
The facilitator said the countries have declined to put the rights in their laws, because they think that people will send them to court and a whole lot of misunderstandings about the right to water and sanitation.